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What Are The Biggest Strengths For Each NL Central Team in 2023?

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

What Are The Biggest Strengths For Each NL Central Team in 2023?

With two days remaining before the 2023 MLB season, only two more divisions to go. One of the worst divisions in the league, the NL Central’s biggest strengths will have to carry this division today.

I wrote an in-depth analysis of this division, including previews and predictions. I expect the Cardinals to win this division, but it could be still up in the air if the Brewers or Cubs can break through.

What are some of the biggest strengths of every NL Central team in 2023? Let’s break it down.

Cincinnati Reds: Young Pitchers

The two young starters that the Reds rolled out last season, Nick Lodolo and Hunter Greene, are the strength of this team. Nothing sells quite like young pitching, and that’s exactly what the Reds have with these two rotation pieces.

Greene, 23, struggled with some elements of his game in 2022, but he showed signs of living up to his draft stock. All in all, Greene started 24 games for the Reds last season sporting a 4.44 ERA. He ranked in the 99th percentile in fastball velocity which translated to a 31 K rate on that pitch. If he can upgrade his control, Greene should be the Reds’ ace in 2023.

Lodolo, 25, showed flashes in his rookie year of being an elite pitcher down the road. 19 starts and a 3.66 ERA is good quality experience on the mound. He got people to swing and miss with a high whiff percentage, particularly on his curveball.

The Reds aren’t going to win the World Series this year, that much is clear. But if they want to be competitive again, it starts with these two young guns.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Strong Future

The roster for the Pirates is not very strong in 2023. They, like the Reds, most likely will not win the World Series anytime soon. Luckily, the Buccos have a decent future and a strong farm system.

The young players are prevalent in the lineup. 24-year-old Oneil Cruz is no doubt the highlight of this group. He can be elite if he can stop striking out as badly as he did last season. He sunk to the bottom 1st percentile in the league. If he can improve that factor of the game, Cruz will be one of the NLs elite hitters. Caanan Smith-Njigba made the Opening Day roster, and Jack Suwinski had a solid 2022. Bryan Reynolds still fits with this crowd, but I’d be shocked if he’s not traded at the deadline this season. Starters Roansy Contreras and Johan Oviedo were solid young pieces that could be the future of this rotation.

What really intrigues me about the future of this team is their farm system. Pittsburgh farm is ranked as the eighth-best in the league. The team’s number one prospect Termarr Johnson is still only 18 years old. Catcher Henry Davis should be in the big leagues in no time to take over as the primary catcher for this team, maybe even at the end of this season.

To be honest, the Pirates’ roster sucks. People want to see them be good for the sake of beautiful PNC Park and a competitive NL Central. Unfortunately, I just don’t think they’re there yet. Maybe in the future.

Chicago Cubs: Lineup

Now that the Cubs locked up second baseman Nico Hoerner long-term, I’m ready to say that the strength of this Cubs team is probably their lineup.

With Hoerner at lead-off, Dansby Swanson slides in at the two spot. Swanson is definitely a solid enough hitter to fit in at that spot, assuming he doesn’t regress with the bat in his first Cubs season. Let’s not forget about Seiya Suzuki, who is going to start the year on the IL. The heart of the order is intriguing, with veterans Ian Happ, Trey Mancini and Cody Bellinger. Mancini and Bellinger are somewhat wildcards, given that neither of them has been as productive as they used to be. Speaking of aging players, Eric Hosmer bats seventh.

I’m not saying this lineup is overly good, but it’s probably the strength of this team by default. I say “probably” because the rotation can come out and be pretty good, or the lineup can stink it up all season. I applaud the Cubs for spending money this year to try and field a competitive squad.

Milwaukee Brewers: Starting Pitching Strength

Obviously, the biggest strength of the Milwaukee Brewers team is the lethal starting pitching. I feel like I don’t even have to list out everyone’s name and strengths, but I will anyway.

Corbin Burnes is the ace of this staff. The long-haired righty was amazing again in 2022, pitching 200 innings for the Brew Crew. 2022 may have been considered a step back for Burnes by some, but I’d still take him as my ace any day of the week. If the Brewers can manage to not piss him off anymore, he should remain this team’s number-one guy this season. Brandon Woodruff as my two starter is about as good as it gets. How about a three-starter in Eric Lauer? Finally, Freddy Peralta completes this tandem. The Brewers would love to see Peralta start more than 17 games in 2023.

This rotation could be really, really good. But if the bats don’t keep up, I’m worried about the Brewers’ chances in this division. No doubt in my mind that if these pitchers live up to what they can be, Milwaukee could run out a minor league lineup and still finish above .500. That’s how solid the staff is.

St. Louis Cardinals: Offensive Weapons

I like the pitching that the Cardinals have, don’t get me wrong. But these offensive weapons can make any opposing pitcher crap themselves.

First and foremost, the NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt. I was so happy to see Goldy break through and climb the MVP mountain, with his corner infield mate Nolan Arenado by his side. For a lineup that was top five in production in 2022, I expect more of the same for this team’s biggest strength. Brendan Donovan had a nice rookie year in 2022. Tyler O’Neill and Tommy Edman can do just about anything you ask of them. Lars Nootbaar became an internet sensation in the World Baseball Classic, meanwhile, he was good enough to start every game for Team Japan. Let’s not forget that they got Willson Contreras this offseason to fill Yadier Molina’s shoes.

This lineup is genuinely scary from top to bottom. Let’s face it, it’s easily the best lineup in the NL Central.

The NL Central’s biggest strengths are complete. The more and more this countdown winds down, the more excited I am about this upcoming MLB season. Baseball has a lot of momentum heading into this season because of the World Baseball Classic. The NL Central strengths aren’t very plentiful, but some teams do some things very well. The Brewers’ starters vs. Cardinals lineup has to be my favorite matchup heading into 2023.


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